Pieter Beserick has never let his intellectual disability hold him back.
The 47-year-old was one of the first people with a disability to attend Freshwater High School, after spending his primary years at a special school.
He lived on his own in Manly for 17 years and worked at Harris Farm markets, until he was diagnosed with cancer in May 2015.
His diagnosis wasn’t promising – doctors doubted he would make it to Christmas that year.
So he moved to the Hunter Valley to live with his mother and stepfather at Neath while he underwent treatment.
Two years on, Pieter’s health has rallied around, and he is living on his own once again.
His family credits his involvement with the Cessnock Men’s Shed and Community Garden as playing a huge part in restoring his independence.
Pieter met another men’s shed member at a local disability support network meeting mid-last year.
His mother Val Robinson said while Pieter enjoys many social activities offered through disability support services, she has always encouraged him to interact with people in the wider community.
“He’s always been very social, and he needed extra activities,” she said.
Pieter joined the men’s shed and made many new friends.
His favourite things to do at the shed included helping out with the washing up, sweeping and crushing cans.
He said he’s not really into gardening, but he loves checking out the woodwork area.
Pieter moved to Rutherford last week, so he will no longer be attending the Cessnock shed – but he hopes to join a new men’s shed in the Maitland area soon.
He made a special visit to the Cessnock shed on Thursday when it held its annual Men’s Health Week event, which showcases local health service providers.
Val and her husband John said they wanted to thank the men’s shed members for how they treated Pieter.
“I’m so impressed with the way he was accepted,” John said.
“It was a blessing that he could go to the men’s shed.
“People like Pieter need to be out in society – it’s crucially important.”
Men’s shed president Peter Torenbeek said the members loved having Pieter around and were glad they could help him in return.
“We gave him a bit of comfort and confidence,” he said.
The Cessnock Men’s Shed is open Mondays and Thursdays from 9am to 2pm in the grounds of Calvary Retirement Community.